Sometimes we get hurt and are too proud to admit it. The wound submerges itself deep within our psyche and we get on with life. The problem is that we, not unlike an elephant, never forget. The wound festers.

At first blush the adage, “Forgive, forget, and be reconciled” appears to contain divine wisdom. In practice, however, it can lay the foundation for disaster. Why? Because forgiving and forgetting involves a whole lot more than merely pretending it never happened. And true reconciliation includes more than being able to “be civil” to those who have inflicted such deeply-abiding wounds.

True forgiveness begins with an acknowledgment of hurt and anger. This takes humility because we must admit our own vulnerability. Dealing maturely with the hurt and anger involves many things: (1) First, it must be verified—is my anger valid or am I overreacting? (2) Next, it must be isolated—is my anger a direct result of this action or has this person hit on an old, unhealed wound? (3) Finally, we must never allow anger to dictate our actions. God can and will heal our hearts if we cooperate with Him in the healing process.

As we work through the process of forgiveness, we must keep the action in context. Understanding why another has hurt us, walking a mile or two in his or her shoes, goes a long way in helping us forgive. Human foibles are a part of the landscape. If I can overlook some in others maybe they will do the same for me! When all else fails, allowing God to be God always helps. Maybe I should resign the role of judge and jury to Him and humbly ask that He renovate my heart rather than allowing myself to nurture old wounds.

We must work through the process of forgiveness for the sake of our own hearts. Reconciliation, on the other hand, depends on two parties. Once we have healed to the point of forgiveness, all we can do is affirm the forgiveness and offer reconciliation. If the offending party refuses to repent and be reconciled there is little else we can do.

Through the power of God we can forgive. We may never truly forget but we can work toward healing so that some unsuspecting brother doesn’t lose a head by unknowingly brushing against our unhealed wounds in the future. Reconciliation requires that both parties cooperate with God. The only person we can control is ourselves. Let’s submit to Him for healing; let’s learn how to forgive; let’s pursue godly character in our lives.